Cloverdale’s SEMO Foundation held its annual in-person fundraiser for the first time in three years.
Held virtually in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID, the foundation hosted guests atop Langley’s Westlund Building Aug. 20 for INSPIRE 2022.
The fundraiser was held in support of six local charities: Langley Food Bank, Surrey Food Bank, Surrey Christmas Bureau, Team Keian, Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre, and Club Conquer.
Manny Kang, director of the SEMO Foundation, said he was happy with the way the event went and overwhelmed by all the positive support.
“Overall, the family is very pleased,” Kang said. “After two years of only doing online auctions, it was good to hear from our key supporters in person. It was good to be back and I think everyone that came out to support us had a great time supporting six great causes.”
Kang said the volunteer-run foundation usually hosts its annual INSPIRE fundraiser in October or November in an indoor venue in a more traditional setting. But because the event was moved up to summer, it created a different dynamic for the guests.
“The rooftop gave people a chance to get up and get around,” explained Kang. “People weren’t attached to their chairs. It offered everyone a chance to mingle and talk and get to know other people. That hasn’t really happened at previous events.”
Kang said the INSPIRE 2022 fundraiser goals were exceeded and the SEMO Foundation will now be able to give more money than originally planned to the six charities.
“We’ve surpassed our fundraising target, which, at the end of the day, is really what we’re doing it for.”
Kang said the foundation worked hard to provide a good guest experience to attendees.
Apart from the rooftop setting, buffet-style dinner, and big prize raffle, guests could enter a putting contest to win a new TV, take pictures at a charity photo booth, or get a massage.
“The word that comes to mind is connection,” Kang said. “The human connection was the real highlight. People came together for a common cause they created new connections and they renewed old connections.”
He added those connections were part of the original goal for INSPIRE when it was launched several years ago—to connect with people and inspire them to go back into their own communities and make positive changes.
Sonu Bhuthal, from J&S Cabinet Doors, an event sponsor, said he was inspired to get involved after finding out about the beneficiaries of SEMO’s fundraising.
“I always wanted to give back, but didn’t know the avenues to follow to do that,” Bhuthal said. “When I saw the work the foundation was doing, I thought, ‘What a perfect way to give back.’ I’ve been donating now for about five years.”
Bhuthal said he thinks the foundation occupies a much-needed space.
“Sometimes, we think about doing things and never take the next step,” added Bhuthal. “But Manny, one day, decided to take the next step. He put one foot in front of the other and just kept going and going and he’s built (the foundation) into an amazing organization.”
Kang said there will a “part two” to INSPIRE 2022. The SEMO Foundation will hold an online fundraising auction that will launch Oct. 10.
“Throughout our efforts to host INSPIRE, we received a lot of donated goods,” Kang added. “We gave a lot away in raffles (Aug. 10), but there is so much more and we’re going to auction it all off in October.”
The auction will be held through the SEMO Foundation’s website and Kang said more details will be posted there in September.
Kang said all funds raised through the online auction will go to support charities that fulfill SEMO’s mantra: food, clothes, and shelter.
The SEMO Foundation was created 21 years ago when Kang’s mother, Tarsem Kaur Kang, passed away. Her nickname was “Semo” and she was passionate about fundraising and helping others. Kang said his mom educated her family about the importance of service and volunteering. As such, the SEMO Foundation’s mission was forged in the quest to help those in need.
Kang said they have a few other events in mind and they may host something in the spring. If they do, details will be released through their website.
“We’re feeling pretty good with where things are at,” said Kang. “We will continue to focus on fundraising and inspiring others to help in their neighbourhoods.”
To learn more about the SEMO Foundation, to donate to help a multitude of charities, or to learn more about their online auction, visit semofoundation.com.